How To Stop Stomach Cramps From Laxatives – No More Tummy Troubles

Laxatives are often used to relieve constipation, but they can also cause stomach cramps and discomfort. If you’re experiencing stomach cramps after taking laxatives, it can be very uncomfortable and even painful. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ease the discomfort and prevent further cramping.

In this article, we will discuss the common causes of stomach cramps from laxatives and some tips on how to relieve them. It’s important to note that severe stomach cramps may indicate a more serious issue and you should seek medical attention immediately. However, for mild to moderate cramps, the following tips can be helpful in providing relief.

Why are laxatives used?

Laxatives are medications or substances used to promote bowel movements and alleviate constipation. They work by increasing the amount of water in the stool or stimulating the muscles in the intestines to move the stool through the digestive tract.

Laxatives are commonly used to treat occasional constipation, as well as in the management of certain medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and opioid-induced constipation.

However, excessive or prolonged use of laxatives can lead to negative side effects such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and dehydration. In this article, we will focus on how to alleviate stomach cramps caused by laxative use.

Types

laxatives

Laxatives are a type of medication that help to stimulate bowel movements and relieve constipation. They work by either increasing the amount of water in the stool, lubricating the intestinal walls, or stimulating the muscles in the intestines. Laxatives are commonly used to treat occasional constipation, but they can also be used to manage chronic constipation, certain bowel disorders, and as a preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopies.

There are different types of laxatives, each working in a different way to relieve constipation. Some of the most common types of laxatives include:

Lubricant laxatives

Lubricant laxatives are a type of laxative that works by coating the stool and intestinal lining with a slippery substance, making it easier to pass. They are typically used for short-term relief of constipation or to help ease bowel movements in people with hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

Common lubricant laxatives include mineral oil and glycerin suppositories. Mineral oil is a liquid that is taken orally, while glycerin suppositories are inserted rectally. Both types of lubricants work by coating the stool and intestinal lining with a slick layer, which helps ease the passage of stool.

Bulk-forming laxatives

Bulk-forming laxatives are used to treat constipation by increasing the bulk and water content of stools. They work by absorbing water in the intestines, which softens the stool and makes it easier to pass.

These types of laxatives usually contain natural or synthetic fiber and are available as powders, tablets or capsules. Examples of bulk-forming laxatives include psyllium, methylcellulose and polycarbophil.

It’s important to drink plenty of water when taking bulk-forming laxatives to avoid intestinal blockage. These laxatives can take up to three days to produce a bowel movement.

Saline laxatives

Saline laxatives are types of laxatives that work by drawing water into the colon and softening the stool. They contain salt and other minerals that help increase the osmotic pressure in the gut, which in turn increases the amount of water that is retained in the colon. This makes the stool softer and easier to pass.

They work relatively quickly and can provide relief from constipation within a few hours. They are available over the counter and come in different forms, including powders, liquids, and tablets. Examples of saline laxatives include magnesium citrate, magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia), and sodium phosphate.

Osmotic laxatives

Osmotic laxatives work by drawing water into the colon to soften stool and make it easier to pass. They are also known as stool softeners and are often used for constipation caused by medication, dehydration, or a lack of fiber in the diet.

They come in several forms, including powders, liquids, and pills. Some common types of osmotic laxatives include magnesium citrate, lactulose, and polyethylene glycol (PEG).

Magnesium citrate is a saline laxative that is often used to prepare for medical procedures or surgeries. It comes in liquid form and is taken orally. Lactulose is a synthetic sugar that is also taken orally and works by increasing the water content and volume of stool. PEG is a powder that is mixed with water and taken orally. It works by drawing water into the colon and increasing the frequency of bowel movements.

Stimulant laxatives

Stimulant laxatives are another type of laxative used to relieve constipation. They work by stimulating the muscles in the intestines to contract, which helps to move stool through the digestive system.

They usually work within 6 to 12 hours after taking them, and they should not be taken for an extended period. They can cause cramping, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort, especially if taken in high doses or for an extended period.

Examples of stimulant laxatives include senna, bisacodyl, and castor oil. These laxatives are available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, suppositories, and enemas.

Suppositories

Suppositories are a type of laxative that is inserted into the rectum to help stimulate bowel movements. They come in a variety of forms, including glycerin, bisacodyl, and docusate sodium.

They work by softening stool and lubricating the rectum, making it easier for fecal matter to pass. They can provide quick relief for constipation and are often used as a last resort when other types of laxatives have not been effective.

However, it is important to follow the instructions carefully and not overuse suppositories, as they can cause irritation or damage to the rectal tissue.

Stool softener

Stool softeners, also known as emollient laxatives, work by making the stool softer and easier to pass. They are commonly used to treat constipation or to prevent straining during bowel movements, which can lead to hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

They function by drawing water into the colon and softening the stool, making it easier to pass without causing any additional strain or discomfort. They are typically taken orally in pill or liquid form and can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours to produce a bowel movement.

While using over-the-counter laxatives often might result in electrolyte disturbances and changes in the body’s salt and mineral balance, they can also be highly beneficial in treating constipation. Try using some natural laxatives in your regimen if you want to establish regularity. In addition to having few adverse effects, they can be affordable, safe alternatives to over-the-counter medications.

Coffee

Some people may feel the need to use the restroom more frequently when they drink coffee. Coffee typically contains caffeine, which may hasten the rate at which food moves through your digestive tract.

Sugar substitute

Overuse of some sugar substitutes might have a laxative impact. This is due to the fact that they mostly travel through the stomach unabsorbed, pulling water into the intestines and accelerating gut transit. For sugar alcohols, which are poorly absorbed in the digestive system, this mechanism is particularly true. It has been researched if lactitol, a form of sugar alcohol made from milk sugar, may be used to treat persistent constipation.

Water

You need to drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated, maintain regularity, and prevent constipation. According to research, keeping hydrated reduces constipation by improving stoma consistency and making feces easier to pass. It may also enhance the effects of other organic laxatives like fiber. Drinking adequate water daily is essential for overall health.

Chia seeds

They are a particularly good source of fiber. Fibre is one of the first lines of defense against constipation. It doesn’t get digested as it moves through the digestive system, giving feces more volume and encouraging regularity. Increased fiber consumption may encourage more frequent bowel movements and soften stools for simpler passage, according to studies.

Which laxative is suitable for you, then?

Constipation

It might be challenging to predict which laxative would be the best one for you. It really depends on the individual. The NHS¬†advises starting with a bulk-forming laxative unless there is a specific reason why one type of laxative may be more beneficial for you than another. Use an osmotic laxative instead of, or in addition to, a bulk-forming laxative if your faeces continue to be hard, and consider using a stimulant laxative in addition to a bulk-forming laxative if your poop is soft but still difficult to pass. However, if you’re unclear about which laxative to take, it is important to see a doctor or pharmacist.

Side effects

One of the most common side effects of laxatives is abdominal pain or cramping. This occurs because laxatives stimulate the muscles in the intestines to contract, which can cause discomfort. In addition, laxatives can also lead to diarrhea, which can further exacerbate abdominal pain and cramping. This can be particularly problematic for individuals with pre-existing digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Dehydration is another potential side effect of laxatives, particularly those that promote water loss, such as osmotic laxatives. When excessive water is lost from the body, it can lead to symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth, and decreased urine output. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly.

Laxatives can also interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients in the body, particularly fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, E, and K. This can lead to deficiencies in these vitamins, which can result in various health problems. Furthermore, long-term use of laxatives can also lead to damage to the intestinal lining, which can impact the absorption of nutrients from food.

Other potential side effects of laxatives include bloating, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, laxatives can also cause allergic reactions, such as hives or swelling of the face and throat, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

In addition to these physical side effects, laxative abuse can also lead to psychological issues such as laxative dependency and body dysmorphia. Individuals who struggle with eating disorders or body image issues are particularly vulnerable to the abuse of laxatives.

Laxatives and eating disorders

Laxative abuse is a common behavior among people with eating disorders. In fact, it is estimated that up to 40% of people with eating disorders use laxatives as a way to control their weight. This is especially true for those with bulimia nervosa, where the use of laxatives is a symptom of the disorder.

Laxative abuse can be very harmful and even life-threatening. It can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the digestive system. Furthermore, it can create a cycle of dependency where the person needs to use more and more laxatives to achieve the desired effect.

For those with eating disorders, the use of laxatives is often seen as a way to compensate for binge eating or to prevent weight gain. However, this is a dangerous misconception. Laxatives do not prevent calorie absorption, and the weight loss that results from their use is mostly due to water loss.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and is using laxatives, it is important to seek professional help. A qualified healthcare provider can help address the underlying issues driving the behavior and provide appropriate treatment to manage the disorder.

Easing Stomach Cramps

Over-the-counter medications

  • Paracetamol: Paracetamol is a common painkiller used to treat aches and pains. Numerous other antiviral drugs also contain it. It could be applied in this situation to alleviate stomach discomfort brought on by laxatives.
  • Codeine – Codeine is an opiate, which is a group of medications used to treat pain. Abdominal pain can be treated with it. Codeine is typically the next step when over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin have failed to ease the agony. Codeine can also be used to treat diarrhea. It has an effect on the brain and central nervous system to prevent pain signals from traveling to other parts of the body. It also decreases the stress and concern that come with being in pain.

Codeine is an over-the-counter medication that comes in pill, liquid, and injection forms. Codeine injections are typically only given in medical facilities. Additionally, less potent versions of codeine are sold in pharmacies. It is given along with ibuprofen, aspirin, or paracetamol.

Home remedies

There are methods for relieving stomach cramps quickly or at home. Others deal with the underlying causes of muscular spasms, while some at-home therapies relax the stomach muscles to stop spasms. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about your stomach cramps before using any home remedies. Use of several home remedies during pregnancy may not be advised.

  • Heat – As a temporary solution, place a heating pad on your stomach. The heat will cause your outer stomach muscles to relax, which will aid with digestion. Most of the time, lying down is the most effective. For at least 15 minutes, leave it there.
  • Rest – A recent study found that sleep deprivation is closely associated to digestive issues.A restful night’s sleep improves your body’s performance and can ease any stomach discomfort you might be experiencing.
  • Chamomile tea – Recognized as one of the most relaxing tea varieties since it is flavorful and light. It’s widely used to treat symptoms including bloating, indigestion, motion sickness, nausea, and diarrhea as well as to relax the muscles in your digestive tract.
  • Electrolytes – Your digestive system’s muscles need to contract properly for you to use the restroom. So either high or low electrolyte levels can result in diarrhea, constipation, and cramping. Because regular use of laxatives can lead to electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and mineral deficiencies, it is imperative to maintain proper electrolyte levels.
  • Antacids – Antacids level out the acid in your stomach to cure indigestion and heartburn. They can quickly help your symptoms go gone in a matter of hours. They do not, however, address the underlying cause, and continued usage is not suggested.

FAQ

Can laxatives cause dehydration?

Yes, certain types of laxatives, such as osmotic and saline laxatives, can cause dehydration by drawing water from the body into the intestines to soften stool.

Can you overdose on them?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on laxatives. Overuse or misuse of laxatives can lead to serious health complications such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the digestive system.

Can laxatives affect birth control?

Some types of laxatives, such as osmotic laxatives, may affect the absorption of birth control pills. It is recommended to use a backup method of contraception while using laxatives.

Can cause stomach cramps?

Yes, some types of laxatives, such as stimulant laxatives, can cause stomach cramps and discomfort.

Can they cause rectal bleeding?

Yes, overuse or misuse of laxatives can cause rectal bleeding, especially with the use of suppositories or enemas.

Can laxatives cause weight loss?

While some people may experience temporary weight loss due to the elimination of stool, the use of laxatives for weight loss purposes is not recommended and can be dangerous.

Can they be used for long-term treatment of constipation?

Long-term use of laxatives is not recommended as it can lead to dependence and damage to the digestive system. It is important to address the underlying causes of constipation through lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments.

Can natural laxatives be just as effective as over-the-counter laxatives?

Yes, some natural laxatives such as prunes, psyllium husk, and magnesium citrate can be just as effective as over-the-counter laxatives for treating constipation. However, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or medication.

Conclusion

The use of laxatives to treat constipation and encourage regular bowel movements may have a major negative influence on the health of your digestive system. The four main types of laxatives are bulk-forming laxatives, osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives, and stool-softening laxatives.

Depending on the laxative you’re taking, you can suffer different side effects, but the majority of laxatives have common adverse effects include bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps, feeling sick, and dehydration, which can result in headaches and lightheadedness.

Laxative use can cause stomach discomfort, which can be relieved by over-the-counter medications such paracetamol and codeine. Natural remedies might also help to lessen discomfort. Consider using a heated pad because the heat will calm the muscles in your outer tummy.